Friday, October 31, 2014

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park: The Hike: October 13th, 2014

As the name suggests, there are two sides to Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park.  We covered the Mystery Cave section on October 11th, and on the morning of October 13th, we tackled the 2 mile Hiking Club Trail.

Forestville is the name of a small town that sprung up in the 1850's.  At its peak it was home to 100 people.  Alas, it had a similar fate to many small towns of the time: the railroad passed it by, and the town emptied.  The General Store was the last business open, and one night in 1910 it was locked up with all of the items still on the shelves.  It remained intact until the Minnesota Historical Society stepped in and took over the store and what else was left of Forestville in 1963.  Today, they maintain it as a historic site.  

The Hiking Club Trail, however, doesn't go near old Forestville.  After the previous day's 6.2 mile hike, Joe and I were up for taking a detour to look at the town.  

Yellow forest

It was still kind of rainy out for the hike.  It starts at the amphitheater and continues through the woods.  It reminded me a lot of the other parks we'd visited on this trip - lots of deciduous trees turning a brilliant gold, hills, and a spring-fed river filled with trout.

South Branch Root River, rivering along

As I mentioned above, it's worth your while to take a detour and visit Old Forestville.  The Hiking Club Trail is nice, but it's not amazing.  When the trail crosses over the main paved road, turn north and head towards Old Forestville.  First you'll cross a bridge, then follow the wide curve alongside the prairie.  You'll feel like you're walking into the middle of nowhere, but the town is hidden around the corner.

Joe sees something in the grasses...what could it be?

The prairie is bordered by bluffs - blazing with fall color.  It was beautiful and peaceful.  I bet it is not quite as peaceful during the high season, when carloads of tourists are driving this road to check out Old Forestville.  But on a cold Monday in October, we had the place to ourselves.

Arghh it's Bigfoot!

Suddenly, the bridge to Old Forestville appeared in front of us.  Being the off-season, we were able to just wander in without having to pay.  Everything was closed up tight.  The only signs of life were the Subaru parked by one of the houses, and the sound of a vacuum whirring somewhere within.  We tried to look through the windows to see the century-old store with everything still on the shelves...but alas, you don't get to look unless you pay.  We walked a little further up the road to check out the old schoolhouse and farmstead.  There's not much of either left: just the foundation, really.  We considered walking all the way up to the old cemetery but it was starting to rain we walked back down the paved road to where we left the Hiking Club Trail, and finished it up.

This way to Ye Olde Forestville

If I were to plan this hike again, I would still take the detour to Old Forestville.  It's a flat, paved road and, although it doubled the length of the hike, it didn't add to the strenuousness at all.  I would make sure to visit on a day in which the buildings were open and maybe take a tour.

One interesting note about this part of Minnesota: there are very few mosquitoes in the summer.  We had heard rumors of this mysterious mosquito-free corner of the state, and found out that it was because of those 48-degree spring-fed rivers.  They are too cold for mosquitoes to lay their larvae.  On the flip side, there are rattlesnakes in this area of the state.  Give me a rattlesnake over mosquitoes any day!  Sounds like a slice of heaven.

One last look at the yellow leaved forest

So: our Southeast Minnesota Road Trip comes to an end.  We visited four State Parks and completed the Hiking Club Trails (Forestville/Mystery Cave, Carley, Beaver Creek Valley, Whitewater), and visited the Mystery Cave.  We hike ever closer to Joe's goal of getting that 150-mile patch this year!  We stayed at the Jailhouse Inn, which was our first Bed and Breakfast experience.  We stayed in the Processing Room - right next to the Cell Block and the Drunk Tank.  The room was comfortable, the bathtub was a delight (big clawfoot tub...ah!), the breakfasts were above and beyond anything we'd ever usually have (waffles, omelettes, fruit cups, home fries, etc) and we would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a place to stay while visiting parks and catching fish.

On the first night we ate dinner at the Branding Iron Supper Club.  Dang, it was filling.  Soup, salad, bread course, potatoes, main course, dessert...we very nearly had to be rolled back to the car.  It was good, but there was just so much of it.  Lucky for us we had so much hiking planned to work all off all of those calories.

Total miles hiked today : 4 (2.0 Hiking Club Trail)
Total miles hiked in 2014: 37.6
Total Superior Hiking Trail miles hiked in 2014: .8
Total ticks today: Joe - 0; Elly - 0.
Total ticks in 2014: 11

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